April 2, 2012, the federal raid on Oaksterdam changed my life forever. It was both the worst and ultimately, the best day of my life as I took responsibility for the school, the museum, the gift shop and ultimately Richard Lee’s legacy. I am conflicted as I reminisce because this day was also his last as the patriarch of Oaksterdam. I am also filled with pride that we did not quit when everyone said we should. We did not give up the good fight, and we are successful now due to the selfless actions of our instructors, volunteers, staff, and alumni to keep coming back – and to transform Oaksterdam from a downtown district in Oakland into a state of mind. I hope coming here to our school helped you thrive with higher purpose, entering into the cannabis industry in a way that is not just transactional, but transformational.
Keep the sense of responsibility – show up – and encourage others to join you at every single local and national voting opportunity (absentee ballots are the future, people). Show up for jury duty, and pray you catch a marijuana case to exercise jury immunity, as a citizen. Hang any marijuana case’s jury with a “not guilty” verdict, for you have the privilege and right to judge the righteousness of the law, not just the defendant’s guilt.
Get involved and stay active in your local community improvement programs. OU Gladiators honor family, loyalty, and camaraderie amongst ourselves. Compete with honor as you collaborate on our collective, equitable future. We are finally the industry we imagined in 2007, but we are still a movement first and we are simply not done yet. Advocate up to elected officials and thought leaders, and advocate back for patients and their loved ones who got us this far. We stand on their shoulders, and they should not be trampled and left behind for profit.
These are my requests of you, my Gladiators, for you are the first to arrive at the evolving frontier. You might get bloody; you may make a lot of money. I sincerely hope Oaksterdam University has set you up for success, prepared you for the worst, and taught you how to wing it in the wild days of cannabis policy reform. I hope we have inspired you to make this world better than you found it, through being a good neighbor and bettering your local community.
Never forget the words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”
Let’s continue to change the world together. Your thoughtful participation in cannabis policy reform will mitigate your business risk, transform this industry, grow your quality of life and make work into something meaningful. The industry will grow strong if we remember our roots in social justice and civil rights. As Alumni, my Oaksterdam Gladiators, you have a moral imperative to advocate for medical patients, fight for families to stay together in the face of re-emerging draconian drug war policies, and establish a united front in the effort to deschedule cannabis at the state and federal level. #Deschedule